When President Obama arrives in Cuba today he will be the first sitting president in nearly 90 years to set foot on the island nation. As a matter of fact, it was Calvin Coolidge who in 1928 who was the last president to visit Cuba.
President Obama has come under fire from some lawmakers, including many Cuban-American Democrats and Republicans, including Florida’s own Sen. Marco Rubio who strongly against the president’s trip.
Meanwhile, the president’s trip comes 15 months after he announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba. In those 15 months over 50 polls have been taken and the vast majority of those polls show that U.S. citizens overwhelming support normalizing relations with Cuba and by the way includes, Cuban Americans support renewed diplomatic ties with the island nation.
The Obama visit has raised Cubans’ hopes that a new era in relations with the United States will bring an end to the U.S. trade embargo and improve life for everyone on the island. For Afro-Cubans in particular, the presidential trip carries a special charge, a hope that an African-American leader’s near-universal popularity among Cubans of all races will help end lingering prejudice and inequality
The president will take in an exhibition baseball game between the Cuban national team and the Tampa Bay Rays. First Lady Michelle Obama is joining her husband on the trip, along with their daughters, Sasha and Malia.
On Monday, he will participate in an official state visit, including a bilateral meeting with President Raul Castro and a state dinner. He will also speak to entrepreneurs in the country. The president plans to address the Cuban people directly in a historic speech on Tuesday. He is also expected to meet with dissidents.
Over the past year, U.S. officials have worked to reopen Cuba to America with historic agreements, including direct flight agreements and the first direct mail delivery to the country just this week, which included a letter for President Obama.
As you might imagine business leaders can’t wait to have a chance to head to Cuba, including travel and groups from both Tampa as well as St. Petersburg. Many of whom have visited Cuba of the past few months and years opening a dialogue with the Cuban government.
Obama will also have the chance to play tourist and take in the famous sites of old Havana. But the White House says there’s one famous Cuban the president won’t meet with — Fidel Castro.
The embargo limits how much business American companies can do in Cuba, and President Obama has acknowledged the embargo likely won’t be lifted by the end of his term.
The Obama administration has taken a few steps on its own to ease some restrictions in Cuba just this week, including making it easier for people to travel to Cuba — for individuals to engage in “people to people” travel for educational purpose on their own instead of through tour groups; allowing American companies to hire Cuban nationals; and adjusting the banking system to process money from Cuba in the U.S.
And there are more changes in the works. Last month, the U.S. and Cuba agreed to authorize daily commercial flights between the two countries, and the government is currently considering applications from American airlines to operate these flights.